It is often said that the Australian summer is hot and dry. This summer has lived up to that and more. We have experienced countless hot summer days with temperatures soaring over 40 degrees, only a week ago we experienced 42-45 degrees for 3 days in a row. Unfortunately the garden has felt the heat due to the lack of a decent rain fall.
When the weather spikes and we experience high temperatures for a number of days, naturally plants will fall into a ‘survival’ mode. Many herbal and soft perennials will produce vasts amounts of seed pods in the hope to share their seed for future generations. Leaving the mother plant to eventually wilt and die. But by pruning off the seed pods you can sometimes prevent that as an outcome. Trees and shrubs will reduce the amount of flowers to focus energy on surviving on ‘limit resources’.
If you love collecting your own seed from the garden, this is the time of year to harvest. I have collected seed from celery, lettuce, broccoli, coriander, sunflowers and a few more. But how do you know what to collect? I like to look for seed pods that have naturally started to brown on the plant. An example can be seen in the picture above (left). When the flowers are still in bloom or seed pods (usually) are green they need to remain longer on the plant before collecting.
How to store your seeds? When first gathering fresh seeds from the garden I like to place them into a brown paper bag. I will keep them in this bag for a few weeks as apart of the drying process. When harvesting from plants cut all the dry flower/seed pod off the main plant. Shake the pods in the bag this should release 90% of the seeds that are encased. For seed pods that are not loose and hard shelled place the whole pod in the bag, for example beans. The drying process can depend on the seed and what plant they are taken from. But for a lot of my edible plants this system works fine. Keep the seeds collected in the bag out of direct sunlight as some seeds can burn or even go stale if left in the sun for too long. Keeping seeds in air tight containers or in a cupboard is usually recommended. Once the seed is dry after a few weeks, I then transfer them into sandwich bags which can be sealed closed or seed pocket envelopes. I then write the harvest date on the bag so I can estimate how long they will be viable for.
How long will seeds store for? Usually it is recommend to try and use collected seeds within 12 – 18 months from their harvest date. Seeds will eventually go ‘out of date’ so it is important to collect seeds from plants that you know you will want to sow at a later date. However, depending on the plant in-which the seed is harvest from, the expiry date can vary. There are a number of great books which can give you guidelines on seeds as to how long they can be stored for.
Once the drying process is finished I will sometime sow seed right away such as lettuce which can be grown almost all year round. Otherwise, I will keep seeds until the next season and sow them into peat pots before planting them into the garden.
This season is a great time of year to give it a go. So what will you be collecting in your garden?
Until next time happy gardening! By The Gardener’s Notebook 2018